Tuesday, May 1, 2007

My "Local" Market and the Search for Local Food

Today I decided to actually roam the aisles of my local market, searching for organic and local food. Sadly, they carry less organic produce than they did a few months ago, and they only had one local produce item: navel oranges. Local citrus is one thing I can get easily. They did have local (conventionally-produced) bread and kettle corn.

It's frustrating. In the summer they do carry local strawberries, from a conventional farm. In the fall they have unpasteurized apple cider pressed just 15 miles away.

My best source of varied, local, organic produce dried up about 6 years ago when the farmer started supplying a local restaurant instead. Good for the restaurant, bad for us. Papa was just mentioning the other day how great it would be if someone opened a restaurant that served local, organic food without a pretentious, gourmet spin. He's right; it would be fantastic.

I tried to think of all the places where I can get local and organic food (although not necessarily certified). My garden is the first place, however, right now that means enough lettuce for 3 of us to have big salads 2-3 times a week, and other cool weather crops in small amounts. We've had kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips, radishes, and onions. We still have the greens growing, and beets that need to be harvested soon, and more onions. We will soon, however, be in the place between spring and summer crops. Our garden is small; we will spend all year making it bigger and growing things wherever we can. We've planted tomatoes, peppers, and basil, and will get zucchini and cucumbers in this weekend. This year we will have a handful of blackberries, and hopefully next year the crop will be bigger.

Next I have my neighbor. I can count on her for lemons, and usually grapefruit as well.

We have a year round weekly farmers market, and several of the growers do live in the area. One great thing is that we can walk to this market, thus avoiding the use of petroleum to bring our food home. We have one preferred farmer; he and his wife usually have eggs and citrus, sometimes avocados, and in the warmer months they have some zucchini, stone fruit, kiwi fruit, persimmons, etc. Another grower comes only in the warmer months; she has tomatoes and cucumbers. These growers use organic growing practices but are not certified. Lately we've had a certified grower with apples; they come from about 100 miles away. Most of the other growers are conventional, and some come from as far away as Fresno.

The health food store occasionally has local produce. It isn't something I can count on.

Reaching out a bit, there are a few more farmer's markets, but we would have to drive. One we could take the train to, but it'd cost more than $30 and we'd still have to drive to the station. We can occasionally take the train into San Juan Capistrano to buy from the organic farm just down the road from my in-laws, visit them, and go to the beach.

We're exploring public fruit and the laws concerning our city-owned groves.

In the fall we have apples just a short drive away; we need to figure out storage or preservation.

There is a citrus CSA in town, and it may be possible that a CSA farm in the L.A. area now has a drop off point here as well.

We have local honey, and pumpkins in season. There are many houses with citrus, avocados, pomegranates, or persimmons for sale out front.

Sleuthing around I have found gouda cheese made from raw milk just 40 miles from us. We need to get more information about how the cows are fed and housed. My guess is that we'll be able to find a lot more locally produced food than we originally thought.

Predominately our area has citrus. We can grow a diverse number of vegetables and fruits over a long growing season (as long as we have city water for irrigation). We aren't near a river, but we are less than 100 miles from lakes and the ocean.

Papa and I have talked about eating locally and seasonally for about a year now; I think it's time we set some parameters and make a go of it. Questions to ponder:

We haven't found locally sourced grass-fed beef. Would we be willing to purchase beef if it comes from within the state, and if it is trucked down by the producer to many customers in the area, rather than being flown in?

What do we do about grains and legumes?

Is it acceptable to get our raw milk from producers within a few hundred miles of us?

The most important thing for me to remember is that this is a journey; it isn't all or nothing. The more locally grown food we can eat the better.

No comments:

Post a Comment